When I was driving across Australia in 2011, I saw a lot of small towns and bush villages that don’t feature on covers of travel magazines and guides. That doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to see, though. Far from it. Located off the mainstream tourist path, those little places are usually the real deal. I won’t say that nobody ever visits them, but it’s obvious that less people do.
Hahndorf South Australia was one of those towns.
Hahndorf South Australia
Located in the heart of the Adelaide Hills, a mere twenty-minute drive from the state’s capital, the township of Hahndorf is the oldest surviving German settlement in Australia. It was established shortly after a ship called ‘The Zebra’ arrived on the South Australian shore in 1838. The ship brought German immigrants to the Land Down Under. They founded a new town and called it Hahndorf (Hahn Town), after the jovial Danish captain of the ship, Captain Dirk Hahn.
The German foundations and history are still very much there. The houses have white walls and thick dark wooden beams, the typically German Fachwerk style. Century-old European plane and elm trees line Main Street and German restaurants and bakeries serve German cuisine (sausages and sauerkraut!). Much of the town’s old heritage has been preserved, but new and modern building have popped up among the old buildings as well.
Hahndorf South Australia is the perfect place to use as a base for a few days and explore the surrounding Adelaide Hills and its vineyards and wineries. The famous Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale are only a short drive away. Some of the world’s best cold-climate wines are produced in this very region. You can visit several wineries and wine cellars, take tours and sample excellent wines. Pick up a rental car or campervan rental in Adelaide, and explore the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills regions.
Closer to town you can visit the historic Beerenberg Farm. In season, you can pick your own strawberries there or stroll through the colourful rose gardens. The farm was founded by one of the founding families of Hahndorf, the Paech family, in the 1830s. Nowadays the farm has a worldwide reputation for its jams, pickles and sauces.
Many gum trees and peaceful meadows surround the town and used to be an inspiration for one of Hahndorf’s most famous residents. The renowned landscape painter Sir Hans Heysen had his homestead and workshop in town. ‘The Cedars’, as it is called, is an important national heritage site in Australia and can be visited. It has a large collection of the artist’s landscape paintings.
Other places worth visiting in and around Hahndorf South Australia are the Hahndorf Farm Barn (for an authentic and highly recommended Aussie bush barbecue) and the Hahndorf Academy (a formerly excellent school). Additionally, you could also go for a drive through this beautiful and often-skipped Australian region. The Murray Riverland, Fleurieu Peninsula and Coorong National Park are suggested day trips.
Hahndorf South Australia is without a doubt an off-the-beaten-track (what a terrible cliché… I’m sorry) destination, but those are usually the ones that really surprise you. It certainly was an eye-opener for me.